Compiling a list of the 25 players to watch and five sleepers is sort of like fielding the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. With a large bubble, there are more teams than spots.
Such was the case with putting this list together. Too many good players and a lot of head-scratching, erasing and second-guessing before you finally pound the table and come to terms with having to make final decisions.
This list will probably look a little different in three months. Players perform better than expected, shooting stars emerge on the radar and, unfortunately, injuries do happen.
For now, it would be hard to argue that the following FCIAC players, based on their body of work a year ago, are deserving of preseason recognition, and we are adding five players you may not be that familiar with right now, but will be in the weeks ahead.
The Diamond Dozen
Mufasha Abdul-Basir, St. Joseph. Abdul-Basir rushed for 2,481 yards, 30 touchdowns and just the prospect of him getting the ball made the Cadets’ passing game more explosive a year ago.
Evan Adams, Norwalk. The 6-6, 275-pound Adams will be a hole opener on offense and a run stuffer in the middle of the defense before heading off next year to play at Syracuse.
Zach Allen, New Canaan. Even on a defense full of stars, Allen stood out at linebacker a year ago, when he finished with 11.5 sacks and 81 tackles. Allen, who will be playing at Northwestern, could be a dual threat; the Rams plan to use him some at tight end.
Thomas Costigan, Trinity Catholic. Costigan, who recently committed to Bryant, led the Crusaders with 137 tackles at linebacker. He is a relentless defender and will be a weapon in the team’s new-look passing game.
Ryan Dunn, Ridgefield. The most heralded returning quarterback, Dunn threw for 2,371 yards and 27 touchdowns a year ago. With young players all around him, Dunn’s leadership will be as important as his arm.
Mark Evanchick, Darien. Evanchick filled the role of the August unknown who morphs into a December household name. That tends to happen when you have 14 sacks, force five fumbles and countless hurries, and spend most of your time in opposing backfields.
Tim Hinton, Brien McMahon. Hinton rushed for 810 yards and 12 touchdowns on offense and finished with 78 tackles on defense as the Senators were last year’s surprise team. Expect even more from Hinton this season.
Anfreny Ith, Danbury. If the Hatters are going to take a big step in rebuilding their program this fall, it will be because of their multi-talented quarterback. Ith threw for 1,736 yards, ran for another 500 and has a dynamic presence.
Alex LaPolice, New Canaan. Recruited by Division I programs in two sports, LaPolice opted to play football next year at Harvard. He is coming off a 35-catch, 619-yard, 10-touchdown season. Last year he started hot, got progressively better — winning the MVP award in the Class L final win — and has looked terrific this preseason.
Austin Longi, Greenwich. The most exciting player in the FCIAC, Longi finished with 2,881 yards, 33 touchdowns and was a threat to go all the way from anywhere on the field. He was a big reason for the Cardinals’ strong finish and will be playing next year at Fordham. As coach Rich Albonizio said last week, put 20 more pounds on him — Longi is generously listed at 5-9, 150 — and he might be going to Notre Dame.
Lars Pedersen, St. Joseph. Pedersen finished with 60 catches for 1,059 yards and 16 touchdowns in the Cadets’ explosive offense, and with 75 tackles and 2 interceptions on defense. Pedersen is a game-breaker with sure hands. Next stop: Cornell.
Griffin Ross, Darien. New quarterback Timmy Graham has a perfect safety net in Ross, who last year finished with 80 receptions for 1,061 yards and 6 touchdowns. Expect his role to be expanded; he can stretch the field for the Blue Wave, everyone’s preseason favorite.
Brendan Bisack, Fairfield Warde; Frank Cognetta, New Canaan; T.J. Gallagher, Fairfield Warde; Will Hamernick, Darien; Matt Marzulla, Greenwich; Jake Melnick, Staples; Randy Polonia, Trinity Catholic; George Reed, Darien; TJ Savvaides, Wilton; JuJu Snider, Brien McMahon; Troy Vazzano, St. Joseph; Courtlyn Victrum, Trinity Catholic; Jackson Ward, Staples.
An Introduction Is In Order
Ryan Brown, Fairfield Warde. Brown finished with 35 catches for 537 yards and 5 touchdowns, but he is poised to take the next step in what should be a more vertical offensive attack.
Scooter Harrington, Greenwich. According to coach Rich Albonizio, the 6-5, 225-pound junior tight end has caught the eye of Division I schools — including Virginia and Boston College. Look for him to also catch the eye of opposing defensive coordinators.
Jack Kelly, Trumbull. The Eagles’ defense has been gutted by graduation — save for Kelly, a linebacker who led the team in tackles (82) and sacks (5).
Jim Keneally, New Canaan. Offensive linemen often go unnoticed, one reason Keneally got little acclaim a year ago. He will now anchor an inexperienced unit that will be integral to the Rams’ success.
Anthony Lombardi, Trinity Catholic. The junior transfer quarterback from Mahopac, N.Y., has a strong arm that will open up the Crusaders’ offense. He has the potential to be the school’s best quarterback since….?